I heard about your new novel. And judging by the cover that has a buggy on it, I bet I know where it takes place. Lancaster, Pennsylvania? Holmes County, Ohio? Yes, I'm concluding that your next novel must be an Amish tale. The plain life?
Actually, Still Life in Shadows is not an Amish story. Gideon Miller has left the Old Order lifestyle. Although it's been fifteen years since he ran away from home the night of his cousin's wedding in East Carlisle, Pennsylvania, he still eats apple butter. He isn't sure about his faith. Or his father. He helps dissatisfied Amish youth relocate to the "English" life.
Perhaps, Still Life in Shadows is more Amish than I thought.
I started out with an agenda. I was a bit put off by the love for Amish lore. Come on, why all this simple farmlife idealism? You do know that not all Amish are happy. They have issues and troubles and face family turmoil.
But then Gideon Miller took over. After all, this is his story, not mine. Gideon is a thirty-year-old trying to make life in Twin Branches, North Carolina, work for him.
All is going well with his job as a mechanic at the auto shop, until his younger brother Moriah comes to town. Moriah is good-looking and has a way with the ladies . . .
Told from Gideon's point of view, and thirteen-year-old Kiki's (an autistic girl who lives with her older sister), Still Life in Shadows is a story of belonging. It's also a story about forgiving---especially yourself.
Here's an excerpt from the novel:
Kiki was not only good at holding her breath, but she could also read upside down pretty well. The name on the file was hers. She bet that if she looked inside, it would have in large, mean letters: Retard.
But she was not a retard, she was autistic. That’s what Dr. Conner said. And it wasn’t bad to be autistic. That’s what he told her whenever she shouted how she hated being this way. Being autistic just meant she was unique. The key was learning how to adapt to her uniqueness and make it work in a complex world. Complex.
Suddenly Kiki wanted to ask the principal if he knew what that word meant. She looked across the desk at him as he continued burrowing through her file.
But before she had a chance to speak, he asked, “Did you get into trouble at your school in Asheville?”
She wanted to say, “No way!” but she knew that was a lie. In fact, in all her thirteen years, she couldn’t recall ever not being in trouble. But she wouldn’t tell him that. She opened her mouth to say something—she wasn’t sure what would come out. But just then the door scraped open and in walked the man from the auto shop, wearing his work clothes and smelling of the identical aftershave her social studies teacher wore.
“This is Mr. Miller.” The VP motioned the newcomer toward the chair by Kiki and then closed the door.
Look forward to Still Life in Shadows, coming in August from River North.